Skilled Mexican Migrants in Texas: What the Numbers Hide
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In his study of Houston’s Mexican-American community, De Leon (1989, 26) showed that Mexicans have had an active role in the city’s development since the end of the 19th century. Their reputation was such that by the period between the two World Wars, “many employers … preferred Mexican labor because of its reliability, dependability, and punctuality,” De Leon writes. Several research lines arise from his study, including the key differences between college-educated, middle class Mexicans and their less-educated peers, often undocumented migrants; and the types of skills educated Mexicans possess. De Leon’s study showed a steady increase in the percentage of Mexican migrants who have professional and technical abilities, from 11.2 percent in 1960 to 12.2 percent in 1970. Currently, higher skilled Mexican migrants are a large proportion of the total number of migrants from Mexico, about 34 percent, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute. However, not all of these migrants have graduate or undergraduate degrees in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which are considered more valuable human capital in the knowledge economy.
Although we acknowledge that low-skilled migrants have some skills, they are not necessarily at a professional or technical level. Previous research by Solimano outlines two primary ways to analyze skills: by level of education (which is especially useful for quantitative research) and by occupation (i.e., what people actually do and their ability or talent to do it, independent of their education). For the purposes of this paper, a migrant is considered skilled if he has received an undergraduate degree and highly skilled if he has a graduate degree. Measuring skills according to education level has the advantage of setting a common definition for qualitative and quantitative purposes, so that the same group of individuals can be studied in terms of their numbers abroad as well as what they do as professionals.
The purpose of this paper is to look at Mexican skilled migration to Texas, particularly to Houston, a prominent U.S. health research hub. The paper is structured as follows: a) a literature review and research questions; b) background on the issue of skilled Mexican migration; c) methodology for the study; d) results on a “care drain,” or the migration of medical professionals and women; e) a discussion of Mexican diaspora organizations; and f) conclusions.
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